Have you ever wondered what it takes to drive millions of miles – accident-free, no less – across the country as a professional truck driver? Or what tools drivers really rely on to make the driving job more comfortable, efficient, and safe?
This was the topic of a recent session entitled “Delivering for the Trucking Industry: Buckle Up for a Ride with America's Road Team” in Trimble’s Supply Chain in.sights Virtual Series + Interactive Community Event, which was moderated by Aaron Huff, senior editor at Commercial Carrier Journal (CCJ), and featured panelists Stephen Richardson and Ina Daly from “America’s Road Team,” with the American Trucking Associations (ATA).
Stephen Richardson has been a professional truck driver for 30 years and has accumulated more than 2.1 million accident-free miles. He is a professional truck driver for Big G Express.
Ina Daly has been a professional truck driver for over 38 years and has accumulated over 3.5 million accident-free miles. She drives for XPO Logistics and has been with them for 37 years.
Here are some of the in.sights that Ina and Stephen shared throughout the session:
Aaron: You must have a lot to do to organize your work and your life, in order to be the safest you can be. Let’s talk about how you prepare for a trip – what are the habits and strategies you use to get your mind and body right?
Stephen: The first thing is, you’ve got to get your rest. That’s definitely a must – distractions can really break your nerves. I also start my day with exercise – that gets the blood flowing and gets the mind operating right.
Ina: I love what Stephen said about getting a good nights’ rest. We monitor traffic reports and plan our routes accordingly. When I get to work, I check my truck very closely. I haul a lot of hazardous material, so the paperwork has to be just perfect. I think the pre-trip inspection is really step 1 to staying safe all day.
Aaron: What kind of attitude or mindset have you been able to develop and maintain in order to stay safe on the road?
Ina: There are a lot of very dangerous drivers out on the road with us. I vow not to let them make me a part of their stupidity. I keep a safe distance, and I try to predict by watching my mirrors if someone is coming up quickly behind me, so I’m ready when they come by. It’s constant watching and predicting other drivers’ behavior. I’ve been frustrated with distracted drivers that weave or drift into my lane as they pass -- sometimes you just have to take an off-ramp and stop, to let some space develop between you and them.
Stephen: Something I think everyone should do this – not just truck drivers – is think of the other people on the road beside you, in front of you, and behind you as your mother, your father, your sister, your kids – how would you want someone to treat them? That’s how I treat everyone around me. I also always tell young people that driving isn’t a privilege, it’s a responsibility. You’re responsible for yourself, but also everyone around you.
Aaron: How have you seen trucks change since you started your career?
Ina: My truck has the forward-facing radar system, so I can see the speed of the vehicle in front of me. I really love that technology. I used to drive cab-over trucks that didn’t have power steering. Brakes have come a long way – stopping distance has improved.
The comfort in the new trucks is great, and automatic transmissions now are really standard. When I got my first one, I thought “I’m not going to like this” but when I get stuck in traffic, the automatic transmission has brought a lot of comfort. The comfort level in trucks now is just tremendous.
Aaron: Are there any technologies in trucks now that you don’t think are as effective as advertised or has it all helped you?
Stephen: Pretty much, I think most things have helped us. Since I really started getting introduced to [technologies] like radar systems, lane assist and especially automatic braking systems, I was amazed that they were going to think about putting this on a truck. Now that I’ve experienced it for 3-4 years, it’s very helpful. There are so many little things that people don’t realize are on trucks.
Aaron: Where do you think the trucking industry is headed in terms of the workforce?
Stephen: There’s been a standard set when it comes to pay, by the larger companies that need to pay more to attract drivers because they have more seats to fill. But even medium-sized companies have seats to fill. With the current shortage, you have to keep up with the pay, but you also have to give them a future. When you pick a good company, you need to stick with it – it’s about creating a future together.
Ina: The culture is really huge in whatever company – right now, a lot of companies are doing in-house training to help teach drivers. They’re getting a really good education while they work and earn a living and benefits. You’re creating a culture of safety and happy employees. The trucking industry has come a long way since I started. I was fortunate to be a woman that got on with a company that was accepting of women – not everyone was. It’s very open and welcoming in trucking now, and we need to keep that culture at the forefront and make people happy.
Buckle Up and Watch a Replay of the Supply Chain in.sights
If you’re looking for more useful “in.sights” about the driver experience, you can watch an on-demand replay of the full session to learn more from Ida and Stephen about their perspectives on being a professional truck driver.
Editor’s note: Questions and responses have been lightly revised for length and clarity.